Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Response to Concerns about US75/PGBT Development

US75 and PGBT

A high-end, mixed-use development is planned for 140 acres south of President George Bush Turnpike on both sides of US 75 in Richardson. Opposition is arising from a self-organized group calling itself the Neighborhood Protection Alliance of Richardson (recently discussed here).

After the jump, a look at NPAR's concerns.

  • Density: "NPAR feels this kind of density is potentially detrimental to the quality of life of existing neighborhoods." Yes, but it's also potentially a huge benefit to the quality of life. Having nearby, walkable and bikeable, a mix of apartment homes, shops, restaurants, offices and parkland, could significantly improve the quality of life in east Richardson. The key is setting high quality building standards and strict and continuous inspections, not just during construction but for years and decades afterwards. Reflexively resisting high-density development is not the key to the future prosperity of Richardson.
  • Traffic Congestion: "Traffic that is already difficult at rush hours peaks will worsen." The property is currently vacant land. *Any* development will bring people. The property is at the intersection of an eight lane freeway and an eight lane tollway. There is no better location for handling a lot of traffic. And form based code is designed to make the neighborhood walkable, limiting the increase in traffic.
  • Form Base Code: "A relatively new and 'innovative' type of zoning, this is the first of its kind in Richardson." Relatively new to Richardson, maybe, but it's long overdue here. Current zoning pushes residential away from commercial and forces the use of the automobile for every trip outside the home. If we really want to do something about the traffic congestion NPAR is concerned about, we need to offer an alternative to current zoning. Form based code places an increased emphasis on the physical form of the buildings and less emphasis on their usage. It's essential for mixed-use development. Form based code gives hope to those who want to be able to walk from their home to a grocery store or a restaurant. And when they walk, others who don't mind driving everywhere will have fewer cars on the streets to contend with. Form based code can be your friend.
  • Impact on Green Space: "While there is mandatory green space within the zoning (primarily because of the Spring Creek floodplain,) there are still questions about the impact on the dwindling surrounding green space and the percentage within the development." From the plans I've seen, green space is already well comprehended, but by all means, lobby for as much green space as you can get.

    A more useful priority would be to get the city of Richardson to buy up all that undeveloped land between the Spring Creek Nature Area and Renner Road. Otherwise, someday a lot of people are going to be rudely surprised when what they think of as part of the Nature Area is bulldozed and turned into parking lots and office buildings. The Spring Creek Nature Area is much closer to NPAR's neighborhoods than the US75/PGBT property is. Now is the time for NPAR to work to preserve its borders, rather than wait for some developer to appear and then try to get the city council to prohibit that landowner from developing his own land. (To see some recent photos of the Spring Creek Nature Area, look here.)
  • Green building requirements: "The developers have rejected the council's request to explore a more 'green' agenda within their code by requiring LEED certification." Good for NPAR. Watters Creek is LEED certified. New development in Richardson should be pressed to be LEED certified, too.

I welcome neighborhood interest in development planning. It could be useful leverage to balance developer influence on the city council. But if it tips the balance against development, if a NIMBY attitude prevails, then Richardson will be the loser.

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